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Posts Tagged ‘bullpen’

You may call him Mo, The Sandman, The Panama Express, The Hammer of God or some other silly nickname. To us Yankees fans, he’s simply the gold standard. The guy you compare everybody else to, and beat them into the ground like they’re all nobodies. Have you ever been at a Yankees game and hoped or prayed that a pitcher on your own team would just give up a run (to make it a save situation) so you could catch a glimpse of Mariano Rivera? I can honestly say that I’m guilty of that. If it means getting the chance to see one of the greatest baseball players of all-time toe the rubber once more, it’s well worth it.

With Mariano Rivera coming out and announcing that he will be retiring at season’s end, I guess it’s finally soaked in that he’s not going to be around beyond this season. You just start think about the times he would jog out of the bullpen to Metallica, and the opposing team knew all too well that the game was over (and they still do to this day). He sawed off more bats than I can remember. His cutter was so great, players knew what was coming and still couldn’t hit it. We could look through all the books and see how many records and awards Mariano has received, but he’s beyond that now. He’s on a whole other level and has nothing to prove. He is the greatest closer in the history of baseball. And at this point, there is no debate about it.

Besides his stellar play, it was also the way he carried himself on and off the field that put him above all others. He was the consummate professional. He will be the very last player to ever wear the #42 on the back of a baseball uniform. And I don’t think the Robinson family could think of anyone better to carry out Jackie’s legacy. During the press conference they held down in Tampa to announce Mariano’s retirement, Rivera said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to wear the pinstripes. It has been wonderful.” The truth is (and I think I can speak for all Yankees fans here), it’s been a real an honor and a privilege just to watch you play all these years. You’ve provided us with so many great memories.

When you attend a game this year, it might very well be your last opportunity to see him pitch. Just stand and applaud at your seat, and realize that you most likely will never see the likes of him again. This season is his swan song. So, please do as I say, and keep your asses in the seats. This year, we stay for all nine.

Enter Sandman

Mariano Rivera #42

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With the uncertainty surrounding Phil Hughes health, the Yanks may be left with a gaping hole in their rotation. To recap: after Andy Pettitte announced his retirement, Hughes was widely regarded as the Yankees #2 starter, behind ace CC Sabathia. Near the end of Spring Training, Joe Girardi announced that AJ Burnett would take the number two spot. At the time, the move was seen as bolstering Burnett’s questionable psyche. The Yanks broke camp with a rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Hughes, rookie Ivan Nova and veteran Freddy Garcia.

Fast forward a month and we’re left with the mind-numbing reality that Hughes is hurt and tried to pitch through it. The results were, in a word, awful. 10 1/3 innings over three starts, allowing 23 baserunners and 16 runs (all earned).

Aside from Sabathia, the other starters still have major question marks. We’ve seen good Aprils before from Burnett, only to watch him fall apart as the season progresses. Right now, his ERA (3.52) is in-line with his career numbers, but that may not be good news: April is his best career month and his ERA progressively worsens until August. Garcia has been lights out so far, but he is an old 35 with a history of arm problems and the weather is warming. Those routine flyballs are about to start going a lot further. Nova has been basically what you expected – a good pitcher for 5 or so innings; then the wheels start to come off. By the second half, once the league has seen him, he may not even get through those 5 innings. Bartolo Colon has stepped in quite nicely so far, with 3.50 ERA over 18 innings. Questions remain regarding his durability, though: this is the first time he’s pitched in two years and he hasn’t tossed more than 99 innings since 2005.

The bullpen is already showing signs of overuse. The pen has thrown 37% of the team’s innings and combined for 64 appearances, in just 20 games. That pace is unsustainable – especially if Rafael Soriano continues to impersonate a piñata every time he takes the mound.

There aren’t any good options available at the moment. Kevin Millwood lurks in the minors, but hasn’t impressed anyone. Since his contract allows an opt-out if he isn’t on the 25 man roster by May 1, it is possible the team makes a minor move by optioning Lance Pendleton and bringing Millwood up. Carlos Silva is also toiling for minor league pay at the moment. Realistically, though, neither of those pitchers can be counted on to replace Hughes’ production. If the Yanks are at the trading deadline with the current rotation mess, they can expect to be held to a king’s ransom for even a middling pitcher – and to have to trade away the farm if they want to make a play for whatever ace is available.

So, the best option is for Hughes to get healthy and regain his form from the first half of last year. And for the Yankees to pray that this isn’t Chien-Ming Wang redux.

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